Sinn Féin’s McDonald expects losses

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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has conceded that her party will suffer some losses in the 26 County local elections, but she said: ‘Beidh lá eile againn’ [We will have another day].

Arriving at the count centre in Dublin’s RDS this evening she said Sinn Féin benefited from a surge in support in 2014, but that they will not retain all of these. She said the surge this year had gone to the Green Party.

“I am not sure where we are going to land but I know that we will have a lot of counting and some long nights ahead of us,” she said.

But Ms McDonald added: “Sinn Féin aren’t cry babies, we dust ourselves down and we get back at it because that’s what political activism is all about.

“Some days the day is yours and the tide is in and some days are more challenging and the challenge for any political organisation is to be able to manage and to navigate your way through either scenario, you have to have all-weather politics.”

Tallies are predicting that Sinn Féin - who tripled their numbers in the last local elections - will lose a number of these seats.

In Dublin their party vote is roughly half of what they received in 2014, while the party could lose as many as half their seats on Cork City Council. Much depends on the direction of transfers among the left-wing candidates, who have all suffered as a result of the ‘Green’s day’, as McDonald put it.

An exit poll for RTE published showed Sinn Féin will likely poll around 12%, some 3% down on five years ago. The largest decline has been in urban areas, where a low turnout by working class voters has coincided with a swing to the Greens.

The same exit poll indicated a significant increase in support for Irish reunification in the 26 Counties, which should have benefited Sinn Féin.

But some decline in the Sinn Féin vote had been expected following upheaval within the party over its approach to abortion. Aontú, a new republican anti-abortion party which formed in the wake of the controversy, is set to win at least two seats in its first 26 County election according to early tallies, and possibly up to five.

Ms McDonald said: “I am disappointed for our people who ran and who served for the last five years and who I know wanted to continue to serve their communities.”

She said the huge surge in favour of the Greens worked against all parties, including Sinn Féin but also warned of a disengagement in some areas.

“There is an issue that we need to address politically in terms of disengagement from politics generally, particularly in identifiable parts of Dublin and beyond, so I think it’s a mixture of things,” said Ms McDonald.

When asked if another poor election result could lead to question marks over her leadership, she replied: “Leaders are charged with leadership come what may. So it is easy to lead and be a political activist when things go your way and the surge is on.

“Those are great days. But you also have to be ready . . . when things are more challenging.”

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